Day 6 of the Delegation:
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The sixth day of our delegation started at the offices of Defense of Children International Palestine (DCIP), founded in 1991 by a former Palestinian political prisoner who was appalled at the treatment of children and their placement in adult prisons. DCIP represents Palestinian children aged 12 to 17. Seventy percent of them are arrested for throwing stones, and the actual arrests usually occur weeks after the alleged incident. Fifty percent of the arrests happen in the middle of the night, when the children are dragged terrified away from their homes.
Ruba (below), a researcher for DCIP, explained to us that during the transfer from their homes to undisclosed police stations in settlements, or to interrogation and detention centers, many of the children are subjected to psychological and physical abuse. According to Israeli military law, children are supposed to be granted legal counsel or have a parent present before interrogation, but the Israelis restrict these rights, as many children receive no prior counsel and if they do, it is a basic phone call with a lawyer providing advice as simple as, “don’t lie and stay calm.”
In addition, solitary confinement is used in pre-trial detention for the purpose of obtaining confessions. When interrogated, children face verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the Israeli soldiers. They are intimidated and coerced regularly, and interrogators often threaten the children’s family members with arrest, or their homes with demolition.
These bullying tactics lead to the signing of false confessions, because most children do not fully understand their rights, and even those that do are not allowed to exercise them. Another violation is that the confessions children are manipulated into signing are written in Hebrew, and the court hearings are also in this language that very few West Bank children read or write.
Ruba reported that confessions also often contain names of other people without the children knowing, potentially implicating their friends, neighbors, and family members in alleged “crimes.”
Most of these children end up accepting a plea deal from the court, which has a 99.7% “conviction” rate. This is sometimes the quickest way to get out of prison, because it occasionally allows for the negotiation of a shorter sentence; and as soon as the sentencing occurs, the ill-treatment and abuses cease. This all demonstrates that Israeli military courts systematically use arrests, interrogations, and false confessions to dehumanize and control Palestinian children, aiding in the occupation and disrupting the lives of another generation of Palestinians.
Our time with DCIP served as a reminder that the military court system is not one of justice, but rather of control. The ill-treatment of Palestinian child and adult political prisoners is part and parcel of the occupation’s broader goal to break not only our bodies, but also our spirits and will. But we know that the people of DCIP, and the courageous children with whom it works, will never allow this!
Our second stop was to the incredible Health Work Committees (HWC), one of the largest and most progressive health organizations in Palestine. With its rights-based methodology, HWC mobilizes communities by conducting needs assessments and implementing holistic and culturally-appropriate approaches to healthcare and wellness. It provides services in 35 clinics, including 16 in the West Bank, and operates multiple mobile clinic teams.
HWC believes first and foremost that the occupation of Palestine is the root cause of all the Palestinian people’s health issues. From illiteracy and poor nutrition to physical abuse in prisons and social and political unrest, all aspects of life are drastically impacted by the occupation. HWC also actively challenges the Palestinian Authority’s practice of treating healthcare as a series of services instead of an inalienable human right.
HWC staff members face systematic abuse and intimidation by Israeli military personnel, who stalk them, make death threats, and destroy HWC tent services in remote areas. Staff members have been arrested multiple times, but despite these threats and intimidation by the Israelis, nothing slows down HWC’s commitment to its work.
The importance of this organization cannot be overstated, as it understands and embodies the practice of providing accessible healthcare services as not only a human right, but also a key element in working towards the national liberation of Palestine and its people. HWC exemplifies this in practice by providing sliding scale fees to working class and poor families, and absolutely free healthcare to all political prisoners and their families, as well as to the families of martyrs.
We reported yesterday on the assassination of the martyr Ezzaddin Tamimi, and today want to extend our deepest condolences to the Tamimi family, especially Jana and Bassem Tamimi, whom we had the pleasure of meeting and talking to yesterday. Our thoughts go out to this brave family that has experienced way more than its fair share of heartbreak, but continues to fight every day for the liberation of our land.
Until Liberation & Return,
USPCN - June 7, 2018